SNP Defra spokesperson Calum Kerr has slammed ministers for refusing to pass on convergence uplift money to Scottish farmers, claiming they have used Brexit to ‘kick the issue into the long grass’.
Mr Kerr has raised the matter with the Government several times since June 2015, and was assured by Farming Minister George Eustice in July 2016 – a month after the EU referendum – that talks would begin by autumn the same year.
Since these talks did not materialise, Mr Kerr used the last round of Defra questions in parliament before the election to ask about the money again, where he was told Brexit had thrown the schedule off course.
Afterwards, he followed up with a letter to Mr Eustice which blasted the Government’s track record on the issue and declared the Brexit explanation ‘disingenuous’.
The letter read: “I have welcomed the Government’s commitment to honour the current CAP regime until 2020. The convergence uplift money was awarded under this scheme to provide parity for Scotland’s farmers. To renege on such a commitment and to pursue a course of obfuscation and inaction represents a significant breach of trust.
“I urge you to resolve this issue to ensure any post-Brexit agricultural support framework is not undermined by your Government’s failure to deliver a fair settlement for Scottish farmers under the current regime.”
Mr Kerr also took aim at Defra for delaying the 25-year food and farming plan, saying Brexit was ‘clearly causing enormous dysfunction’ in the Department.
“If Defra is not in a fit state to distribute convergence money in response to major political pressure, how will it respond to the enormous complexity of Brexit?”, he added.
“The Government is using Brexit as an excuse not to deliver the funds owed to Scottish agriculture. This is a disgraceful way to treat the sector, especially at a time of heightened uncertainty and risk.”
Mr Eustice said the referendum had changed the situation dramatically, but he continues to have discussions with Scotland to discuss future agriculture policy.